My own personal musings, wonderings, thoughts, and results of personal studies. Also, occasional comments on world events.

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Thursday, September 04, 2003
Moving On

Well, I'm in the process of moving over to TypePad. From now on, I'll be posting at

Things that make you go hmm...

I ordered Babylon 5: Season 2 a couple of days ago. I live in Oklahoma. The package was shipped from Anaheim, California. I just checked the UPS tracking and discovered that the package is currently in Ontario. Go figure.

Update - Steve e-mailed me to let me know that there is an Ontario, California, which also happens to be a major UPS hub. That certainly makes more sense.

The Age-Old Problem

I found this question posted by Guy at a new blog called Damascus Road:

What would happen if we, who call ourselves socially conservative, collectively said that we were no longer going to support those in our party who refused to listen to us? What if we put our collective feet down and said absolutely no more? Would it cause a split amongst conservatives? Would it result in the election of more liberals?......I don't pretend to have the answer to any of these questions; but, they are certainly questions that we, as social conservatives, should seriously consider before stepping into the voting booth.

I fully understand the reasons for his frustration. I don't pretend to know what the long-term results would be if conservative Republicans refused to vote for liberal Republicans. In the short-term, I think that there's very little doubt that the Dems would start winning elections. There are really two questions here. The first is, "Would a massive protest at the ballot box that resulted in Democratic victories convince Republicans to move back to the right?" The second question is, "If this would actually work, would it be worth the short-term sacrifice to achieve this long-term gain?"

Decrying stupdity

No, George Bush is not equivalent to Hitler, says Jonah Goldberg, and no amount of screaming can make it so:

I hate blue cheese. I mean I hate it. To me, it tastes like death or Al Sharpton's socks after they've been under the fridge for a year. But no matter how much I hate it, no matter how much I loathe its texture and smell and taste, it's still only blue or, if you must, "bleu" cheese. Even if you tripled my hatred for it, it would still just be a musky fromage from the land of cheese, long speeches, and short-lived loyalties. It would not, through the mysterious alchemy of hatred and bile, become poison. Sure, I could call it Sarin or Anthrax but that would not make it so. Because, you see, hating an object doesn't change an object. Only the most arrogant and solipsistic fool would argue or convince himself that his hatred of something increases the importance of that thing.

And that's how I think of all these people who e-mail me insistent that George Bush is a Nazi. They believe they are so important, so noble, their hatred and fear must be rooted things of Great Consequence. It's just so prosaic to hate Republicans. I am better than that. So, Republicans must be Nazis. They must be a threat to the whole world and to the sanctity of everything I hold dear because anything less would not be worth my time. George Bush can't simply be someone I disagree with. No, his popularity must be an indication of mass hysteria, of Nuremberg-style devotion to evil.

So desperate are these people to live in interesting times and play the hero, that they are willing — eager — to topple every significant moral and historical category so they can role play as the Heroes who Would Not Stay Silent. That would be fine if these losers were playing some multisided dice game in their basements. But they're not. There's a war going on and these guys are acting like we're the real enemy. That's not just shameful and stupid, it's unhelpful.

Read the whole thing.

As a reminder

Burma is still holding political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in "protective custody". In this case, they're protecting themselves from anything she might have to say. They arrested her and, according to Amnesty International, about 100 other people back in May. The U.S. embassy says they've received information that she's on a hunger strike, but that's difficult to confirm.

There are a couple of things that really concern me. The first is that while news organizations were all over this the first few days after she disappeared, this is the first story I've seen on the issue in the last 6 weeks or so. Sure, I've been out of commission during part of that time, but you'd think this would rate higher. Why has the news media not been playing this up more?

The other really bizarre part of this story comes from this quote:

Rangoon's foreign ministry issued a statement calling the hunger strike claim "groundless," a denial repeated by an official at the Burmese Embassy in Canberra, Australia Thursday.

Rangoon's ambassador to Britain has also reportedly denied the report, according to the Thailand-based Burma newspaper, Irrawaddy.

"How could anybody know that she's on hunger strike when you don't even know where she is?" ambassador Kyaw Win was quoted as telling the BBC.

The government is holding a political prisoner without charges for several months, they haven't allowed any international organization to see her in weeks, and now there are rumors that she's on a hunger strike. Yet, somehow, the government thinks it will make them look better to also point out that she's being held at a secret location. ??????????????

This is a bad situation. Someone needs to do something and that's only likely to happen if the press makes a big enough stink. Given that, why has the press been relatively silent on the issue? Is it just that no one can find a way to blame this on Bush? Does no one care becaause Burma isn'ta "sexy" enough part of the world? Is it because her people aren't being "persecuted by the EVIL JEWSTM. I don't have a clue, but regardless, the lack of journalistic interest doesn't sit well with me.

Update-For full disclosure, I've got to admit that I'm pretty upset with myself for letting this one slide as of late.

Sad Day

Eric Estrada has removed himself from consideration as an appellate judge.'

Correction - I got an e-mail from Ron who pointed out that it was Miguel, not Eric, Estrada who withdrew his name from consideration. That was a pretty pathetic mistake on my part. Sorry.


Joshua Claybourn poins out that he didn't see any death-penalty opponents at the Paul Hill execution and wonders why that is?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Admitting your wrong
And how, exactly, is he planning to pay for that?

I just saw a Howard Dean add in which he pledges that if he's elected President, ever American is going to have health insurance. I shutter to think where he's going to find the money for that plan.

I actually think this is an easy call

Mark Byron says he doesn't know where the need for juries to order the death penalty came from. Actually, this seems pretty straight forward t me. The Sixth Amendment says:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Sixth clearly demands a jury for criminal trials. I don't think that demand ends once the guilty verdict has been reached, especially when you consider the demand for due process. Of course, if you use my logic, imprisonments aren't allowed under the Constitution either. I've not read the SCOTUS opinion, but I don't think it's an unreasonable decision in principle.

Oops. Dr. Byron pointed out to me that I was looking at the Fifth, not the Sixth. I don't know what I was thinking.

Libraries in Cuba

The Kansas City Star has in intriguing story about a Cuban refugee who was forced to flee the country after trying to start an independent library.

Here was, to me, the sad part:

Cuban authorities, not surprisingly, saw Colas' efforts on the island as a counterrevolutionary ploy that enjoyed covert U.S. backing.

Roughly 15 independent libraries were shut down and their inventory confiscated during a broad-based crackdown on dissidents last March. The directors of each library were given long prison terms, including Colas' successor in Las Tunas.

"The independent libraries have ... demonstrated they are receiving money to subvert the institutional order of Cuba," said Eliades Acosta, Cuba's director of national libraries. The Bush administration denies Cuba's allegations of U.S. involvement.(Emphasis added.)

What? Why, exactly, did our government deny involvement? Either our government has actually refused to help these brave people, or it doesn't want to be associated with them. In either case, I'm ashamed. Ideas are one of the most powerful things in the world. Our government should be helping these people and it shouldn't make any apologies for doing so.

"Deaning Down"

CK Rairden explains what's wrong with the Democratic Party:

The left has long sought to “dumb down” America understanding that the more ignorant America becomes the less resistance liberals will meet as they push their agenda. Their plan has failed as liberals continue to lose elections one after the other. So now a new strategy has emerged--no longer satisfied with the failed results of attempting to “dumb down” America, Howard Dean has had early success of rallying the angry malcontents on the far left in what I have dubbed as the ‘Deaning down’ of the Democrat Party.

A classic example emerged as Massachusetts Senator John F(rench) Kerry finally got around to announcing his candidacy for the Democrat nomination for president on Tuesday. Newsweek analyst Howard Fineman made it very clear what the left believes it will take to win the nomination and recapture the White House. Anger. Appearing on the Today Show with Katie Couric, Fineman bluntly stated why Kerry is faltering amongst the left, “He has to get focused and he has to get angry.”

And that is the epitome of what Howard Dean has brought to his splintered party, resentment and anger. Misplaced anger, but nonetheless for the fringe left--focused anger.

--The anger must not be focused on the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11.

--The anger must not be focused on the terrorists who are attacking American soldiers in Iraq.

--The anger must not be focused on any foreign body or nation that desires to see Americans killed and America dismantled.

The ‘Deaning down’ of America requires anger focused on President George W. Bush and any American who dares support the President. This new “Deaned down” strategy requires resentment towards any hard working American who wants to see America kept safe and is willing to make the sacrifices and continue the will and power necessary to keep the American homeland secure by supporting the President.

Read the rest.

Claybourn rounds up stupidity
They won't listen ...
...they never do.

David Frum has some advice for CNN.


David Heddle takes on a couple of really difficult passages. His conclusions seem to be generally reasonable. I'd try to add my thoughts, but I'd doubt it would do any good; I've got to admit that try as I might, I really don't understand either passage very well.

Johnny Depp shoots his mouth off

Oh, isn't this cute:

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hollywood star Johnny Depp (news) said on Wednesday the United States was a stupid, aggressive puppy and he would not live there until the political climate changed.


"America is dumb, it's like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive," he said.

"My daughter is four, my boy is one. I'd like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out," said the star of the off-beat films "Edward Scissorhands" and "Dead Man."

Depp slammed George W. Bush's administration for its criticism of French opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq (news - web sites).

"I was ecstatic they re-named 'French Fries' as 'Freedom Fries'. Grown men and women in positions of power in the U.S. government showing themselves as idiots," he told Stern.

Well, he would know, wouldn't he? Still, this seems to be at least one celebrity who's keeping his word and staying out of the country.

Update - Rachel Lucas adds her two cents in her own indubitable style.

Wolfy on Iraq

Kevin Patrick links to this interesting article about the purpose of American troops in Iraq and fighting terror written by Wolfowitz.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

While people continue to carp about how world opinion is against our actions in Iraq, Poland, leading a 17 nation force, has taken control of south-central Iraq.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I hate slow news days. Just thougth I'd share. I suppose I could actually go looking for interesting news that didn't show up in my usual rounds, but I didn't get to sleep until after 5 this morning. (Yeah, that was fun.) More later.

Missed this one

While I was trying to suppress my wonderfully horrible headaches, I missed this post by Philip Murphy about the continuing inability of Europeans to understand American thinking.

I won't deny that I am totally incapable of understanding the prevailing political thought in most European countries; in fact, it often appears to me that they are living in a fantasy land. As Murphy points out, the reverse is also true; Europeans don't get us either.

The difference is that most Europeans, at least the ones who make the most noise, seem quite confident that they understand American political thought and therefore know conclusively that we are wrong. On the other hand, most Americans simply don't seem to care what the Europeans think at all.

The result, I think, is that the rift between America and the (non-English speaking) rest of The West, will continue to widen.

I needed a good laugh
North Korea announces six-way talks with self

I'm not sure this one actually qualifies as satire.

Poll results

Frank J. has posted some of his poll results. I've got a problem with the Iron Man v. Green Lantern pie eating contest; he forgot to take into account the month when Marvel and DC published comics for the Amalgamated Universe. That month Iron Man and Green Lantern were merged into the new hero "Iron Lantern." Wouldn't that screw the whole thing up?

Yes, I have no life.

The French have a problem
... but Misha's solution seems a tad extreme. Maybe.

Glad he filled us in

[sarcasm]Hey, did you know John Kerry served in Vietnam?[/sarcasm]

Politics 101

But of course, you already knew this rule, didn't you?

Stop Immigration!


Rich Lowry argues that runaway immigration seriously damages the interest of low income wage earners.

Heddle is, unsurprisingly, talking about Calvinism again

Specifically, he's talking about the doctrine of Total Depravity:

Today I just want to point out quickly (what many others have already pointed out) that in fact there is just one point of Calvinism: Total Depravity. From that one doctrine, all the other four are natural consequences.

I think there can be little doubt that Total Depravity is the cornerstone around which Calvinism is built. If you remove that doctrine, Calvinism doesn't really make a lot of sense.

However, I can't agree with David about the nature of depravity however. Any one who tries to argue that we are not all depraved and, therefore, all sinners, has got to throw out tons of scripture. Try as I might though, anytime I examine the scriptures that Calvinists put forward as justifying their doctrine of Total Depravity, I just can't see it. I don't want to examine them at this time; I just want to state that I am simply incapable of seeing what they see when looking at the same passages. I don't even know why this might be, but I do know that many times a Calvinist has put forward a few scriptures to me on this topic and not even tried to explain why they believed those verses supported their doctrine. This was not, I might add, because they were using poor debate techniques; rather they clearly believed that the verses stated their position so clearly that no explanation was needed whatever.

This has been the point of endless frustration to me. In fact, any time somebody I respect points out evidence to support a position I hold and I simply cannot see what they see, I am terribly frustrated. The reason for this is that I know that we are unlikely to ever agree on the topic. Disagreement is unlikely in these cases, not because we are having a disagreement about logic, but about fact. If I believed the same facts they do, their conclusions would be perfectly reasonable; since I don't see the same facts that they do, it is highly unlikely that we will ever agree about the conclusions that those facts are based on. 1

David also had this to say about God's sovereignty:

Interestingly, the other four points do not have to be merely accepted as consequences of Total Depravity. They can be postulated as stand alone doctrines and then independently supported in scripture. To me, this is one of the great comforts of the doctrines of grace and sovereignty. If the bible proclaims Total Depravity, then our only hope is Unconditional Election (predestination). Anything else and all man are damned. Lo and behold, that is what the scriptures teach. And if scripture teaches Unconditional Election, them it had better teach Irresistible Grace otherwise the whole system collapses on itself since, without Irresistible Grace, man can thwart God's plan, rendering Him sovereign no more.
(Emphasis omitted.)

This is one of the major problems I have with Calvinism. It seems, to me at least, that Calvinist do not give God's sovereignty nearly enough credit. My view of God's omnipotence is, I would say, more robust. I believe that scripture irrefutably teaches both the Free Will of man and the total omnipotence of God. Therefore, I believe God allows man to have absolute control over his actions, but He has structured the universe in such a way that He will always know which decision the man would make at any given time. In this way, God's will always be done through man's absolute Free Will. (I've previously referred to this concept as Temporal Engineering.)

I have another problem with Calvinism which is more general and not reserved solely for that system of doctrine. The problem is that it is, in fact, a system. David has frequently referred to me as an Arminian; I am not. It may be true that many of my views line up with the Arminian system of doctrine, but I no more subscribe to Arminianism than I do to Calvinism.

The reason for this is that I reject, on principle, the whole notion of systematic theology. When I read scripture, I find a great number of apparent paradoxes. So many, in fact, that if I did not believe that there was clear and convincing evidence of The resurrection, I would probably have rejected Christianity outright. Because I do believe in The Resurrection, I accept the doctrinal teachings in scripture to be true. Once I accept them as true, I also accept the idea that these apparent paradoxes must not, in fact, be contradictions even though they appear to be. I believe this to be true even if I can find no convincing reconciliation of these different doctrines.

If I were to attempt to fit these apparent contradictions into any system of theology, I would be forced to accept one or the other of the paradoxical doctrines in order to make my system flow in a rational manner. Because I believe them both to be true, I find this unacceptable. Instead, I evaluate each doctrine based on the scriptures that teach it independently of any other doctrine.

I should clarify that it is my belief that I do this not because I believe that these doctrines are truly contradictory, but because I believe the minds of mankind are too puny to resolve the conflict. When the end of time comes and we live in full communion with God, we will understand the resolution of the conflict.

It's not that I don't believe that scripture lays out a systematic theology; I just don't believe Fallen Man is capable of understanding the system.

1C.S. Lewis made a similar point about morality. I believe it was in his discussion about universal morality in The Abolition of Man, but I'm to lazy to look up the exact passage at the moment. Lewis argued that mankind had always had a relatively constant morality throughout time; he believed that the only thing that changed was the emphasis certain societies placed on individual parts of that morality. His critics often pointed out that we no longer burn witches at the stake. Isn't that, they argued, a change in morality?

Lewis's response was that it was not a difference in morality at all; it was a difference in fact. We don't burn witches, he argued, because we don't believe there is such a thing. (At least not in the sense that the people in Salem used that word.) He pointed out that if you believed that someone had sold their soul to the devil in order to gain unholy powers which they used to torment others, and further believed that the only way to save these peoples' souls was to purify their bodies through fire, then it is perfectly sensible to burn such people at the stake. We don't burn such people because we do not believe any, or at least most, of these "facts" to be true.